New coaches lead TMS cross country program into new era
For the Tomahawk Leader
TOMAHAWK – 2023 marks a new era for the Tomahawk Middle School (TMS) cross country program, with two new co-head coaches leading the way and with both coming from the Zuelsdorf programs, many of the same methods used in team building and bonding with emphasis on supporting each other to reach goals as a team first while uplifting individuals as a byproduct will be introduced.
Coach Justin Lund has been a part of the high school coaching staff for 11 years as an assistant volunteer for both cross country and track. Lund has been a state team qualifier in 1996 and post-high school has remained actively competing, most notably as a masters athlete, earning multi All-American honors as a track athlete, as well as a National Championship in the USATF ½ Marathon Trail Run.
Coach Carmi Pietila also has a successful track record as a college-recruited athlete, having been a multi-time state qualifier.
A ton of experience at the highest levels and familiarity with the successful programs John Zuelsdorf has built in the past serves as a reminder on the importance of making this program the most fun place you can be while wearing running shoes.
The program also welcomes back Kurt Reinke, who continues to help out with both the high school and middle school programs. The middle school for the first time in nearly a decade will see former middle school head coach Phil Dahl return to volunteer his time and support of these young aspiring athletes.
The girls will be led by 7th grader Charlee Lund as the highest placing medalist returning to the squad, along with fellow medalist and 8th grade captains Joa Reilly, Camryn Kraklow and Aliyah Nelson. Savannah Reinke has been logging some consistent mileage in her second year, adding some valuable experience to the mix, and Lilliana Marheine will look to run closely with this tight pack as a returning 7th grader.
The boys are led by 8th grade captains Dawson Jones and Joseph Zastrow, with 7th grader Levi Cerkas logging some solid summer mileage and looking to contribute to the scoring pack right away.
Experience with the top girls will help the healthy crop of newcomers find their way around practice and on the course.
“With some podium finishes and a competitive spirit out of this group, especially with some of the newcomers, it’s going to be exciting to watch the scoring five runners interchange as each runner on the roster gets comfortable out on the course and confident in competing against runners from other schools,” Lund said. “A goal as a coach is to of course have a successful season, and while another GNC championship would help that, a season ending where we can be excited for the next season, be healthy and get more kids interested in program for the future building of the high school program would be a great way measure the success of this and future seasons.”
As for the boys, patience is going to be key, as the numbers from past years have been at their lowest in recent memory.
Lund said depth and increasing the interest in the program and the sport in general will be key and will the athletes grow the confidence to put in the time and effort level it requires to move forward through the pack on race day.
“If the boys can find their way as a group and take the pack up towards the front together, this could be a great way to get the numbers back to a healthy number in a way that builds excitement for the future,” Lund stated.
Marathon hosted 16 schools for their Cross Country Invitational at Nine Mile Recreation Area on Thursday, Aug. 31.
The TMS boys placed 7th overall, while the girls placed 5th.
Marathon Middle School won overall for the boys, while Wittenberg-Birnamwood won the team title for the girls.
Leading the way for the Hatchet scoring was Charlee Lund with her 12th-place finish at a time of 14:53 over the two-mile course. Kamron Ristau finished strong, leading the Hatchet boys with a 21st place finish and a time of 14:50. Other scorers for the hatchets were Hallie Pierce (15th), Abe Flohr (23rd), Joe Zastrow (29th), Dawson Jones (30th), Aliyah Nelson (31st), Joa Reilly(34th), Giordana Cammisuli (37th), Autumn Pankow (38th), Levi Cerkas (39th), Camryn Kraklow (46th), Tripp Tabbert (60th) and Zach Scott (64th).
Other Hatchets supporting in the team standings included Lexi Palmer (47th), Reagan Gorell (55th), Victoria Towle (57th), Leigha Vassar (59th), Lily Meuer (68th), Max Childers (69th), Vallyn Ott (72nd), Lilli Marheine (73rd), Alaina Stogbauer (80th), Lucy Nelson (82nd), Savannah Reinke (83rd) and Kortney Busterud (92nd)
“Seven out of nine returning Hatchets who ran here last year had personal bests at this course, with some shaving off more than two minutes from their previous time,” Lund said. “In one instance, a runner cut off more than five minutes from her previous effort in great running conditions.”
Rhinelander and James Williams Middle School hosted eight area schools for their Cross Country Invitational at Rhinelander High School on Thursday, Sept. 8.
The TMS boys placed 5th overall, while the girls placed 2nd in a battle with three points separating 1st from 3rd.
Lakeland won overall for the boys, while Three Lakes won the team title for the girls.
Charlee Lund led the way for the Hatchets with her first top-five overall of the year. Charlee placed 5th in a time of 13:31 over the two-mile course, dropping more than 90 seconds from her time last year and setting a new personal best. Hallie Pierce had another strong race and earned a medal by placing 10th in a time of 14:26.
Rounding out the Hatchet scorers were Lexi Palmer (12th), Camryn Kraklow (15th), Kamron Ristau (16th), Aliyah Nelson (16th), Joa Reilly (17th), Joe Zastrow (21st), Abe Flohr (25th), Dawson Jones (27th), Levi Cerkas (28th), Autumn Pankow (34th), Max Childers (44th) and Zach Scott (45th).
Also contributing to the Hatchet pack were Reagan Gorell (36th), Giordana Cammisuli (40th), Victoria Towle (42nd), Leigha Vassar (44th), Vallyn Ott (46th), Tripp Tabbert (47th), Lilly Meuer (49th), Lilli Marheine (50th), Alaina Stogbauer (55th), Savannah Reinke (57th), Lucy Nelson (58th) and Kortney Busterud (60th).
“A total of 22 Hatchets had personal bests with some great weather and a course that was hardpack and dry, which isn’t always the case at this course,” Lund stated.
This week’s action
The middle school Hatchet harriers are scheduled to take part in an invitational at Horace Mann Middle School in Sheboygan on Thursday, Sept. 14.
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